Life and Letters After Death: James & Tyler Clementi
“I’ve heard the story so many times: how you did it, the night you jumped. The first time, and every time I’ve been told about it, read it in a paper, heard it on TV, or dreamt about it at night, it still confuses me. I know you and I know that is not who you are. And that is never how I will think of you, alone and cold and at the end.” – Letters to My Brother, by James Clementi, the openly gay older brother of Tyler Clementi (1992 – 2010).
His name is James Clementi. He grew up with his younger brother, Tyler, in Ridgewood, New Jersey, a charming and uncomplicated little town hidden among Sycamores and wild cherry trees twenty miles northwest of New York City.
But life often shifts dramatically, leaving nothing settled. In September of 2010, Tyler jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge soon after he discovered that his roommate at Rutgers University had secretly video streamed him and his male lover during a sexual encounter.
A year and a half later in a heartbreaking piece titled “Letters to My Brother,” published yesterday at Out.com, James copes with what was taken from him while making some seriously powerful and tender observations about his little brother. Here, he remembers Tyler, the accomplished violinist:
"It is so quiet now. You were really talented; it was a gift. I’m not sure I ever told you that... maybe you didn’t care. It’s not like you needed my validation; I know nothing about classical music and you knew you were the shit when it came to that damn violin. I just feel really bad for not telling you how awesome you are, how much I respect your skills and dedication. I regret not listening to every note with open ears, not going to more concerts. Fuck you for making me feel bad; it’s not fair that you did that to me. But I would tell you now if I could, I really miss the noise!
And even if Tyler is not with us now, his short life and his death—which inspired people everywhere into making It Gets Better videos—keeps bombarding us from all sides, which is to say that Tyler really can inhabit two worlds (the living and the dead) simultaneously. That, undoubtedly, like Family, deeply affects our insides in our own lifetimes with every breath, with every step, with every life laid out in words.